Stories of femmes fatales working their wiles to hoodwink men are legion, but this novel takes such nefariousness to new heights: an elderly woman attaches herself to wealthy widowers, then makes off with their entire estate when they die. The odd-sounding title of the book is essentially the name of this woman’s chosen occupation. Its plot proved to be a timely one in Japan: the book had only just appeared in stores when an elderly woman was arrested on suspicion of carrying out multiple murders in a remarkably similar scheme.
Sayoko Takeuchi is 69 years old. Dark of complexion and short of stature, she fits no one’s description of a beauty, and dresses in garish clothes and accessories to boot. The woman is in fact a professional marriage-scam artist, working in league with Tōru Kashiwagi, a 43-year-old man who owns a matchmaking business. Training her sights on wealthy men who have lost their first wives, she puts her feminine charms to work in gaining their confidence. Her ultimate MO is not to seek insurance payouts, but to get each man to legally make her the beneficiary of his estate by rewriting his will—all the while leaving his family members in the dark.
The story begins when Sayoko’s common-law husband Kōzō Nakase, 91, suffers a stroke and is admitted to the hospital at the end of July. He rallies for a time, but ultimately dies in mid-August. Nakase’s daughters Naoko and Tomomi are astonished when Sayoko presents them with a properly executed will leaving their father’s entire estate, valued at some ¥60,000,000, to her instead of to them. Tomomi seeks help from her college friend Moriya, who is now a lawyer, and they quickly realize they are dealing with a professional fraudster. A private eye named Honda hired by Moriya to dig up evidence of fraud brings Sayoko’s sordid past to light bit by bit.
Besides having both theft and hit-and-run counts on her criminal record, Sayoko is revealed to have been officially married to at least nine men over a span of two decades, and is connected to at least three traffic accident deaths and two additional deaths of a suspicious nature. When Honda obtains evidence that Kashiwagi was the actual perpetrator in the accident deaths, he moves on his own to blackmail the duo. Also facing a threat from Moriya that he will spill their entire past to the media, the fraudsters decide to settle in the Nakase case by paying off his heirs, while at the same time hiring Sayoko’s brother Hiroshi, a former yakuza who has just gotten out of prison, to carry out a hit on Honda. The hit fails, and Hiroshi gets into a fight with his sister in which he ends up killing her. Kashiwagi attempts to hide the body but is arrested, and soon the entire series of crimes is exposed in a compelling read that throws a peculiar light on the elderly segment of contemporary Japan’s rapidly aging society.